Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Moped Diaries. part 2 No license- no helmet - no underskirt…

The Moped Diaries. part 2 No license- no helmet - no underskirt…

This is not a technical article - technical advice you can get from just about any guy you know who rides a bike, or from the friendly salesmen at joints selling them. What follows are the kinds of tips you won’t hear from the guys: stuff like how to choose road friendly feminine underwear and what parts of your riding trainer it is better not to grab on those early test runs. Also please understand, first and foremost you need to know how to balance on a foot-cycle as its called, it’s a pre requisite without which you make life a living nightmare for the poor soul who has to teach you, since he will be worrying about how many tumbles he has to take with you and gravel rash on ones elbows hurts to the point of being crippling, trust me.

Helmets are a good idea whether the government requires then or not, since we only have one grey hard disk and damaging that could have embarrassing permanent repercussions. I was given this polite advice by a fatherly grey haired gentleman while waiting in traffic in the middle of Town Hall and I remember him with affection to this day. Have a helmet with a tinted face visor so you don’t need to get distracted smiling at anyone or have a sore throat every day.
As for what to wear- well, the less female you look, the less traffic you will snarl. If you really want to hear the regular hair rising screeching of truck brakes right behind you and feel a thousand eyeballs so tangibly fixed on your rear end that they seem to be arguing for space amongst themselves… then by all means dress like Barbie on the Malibu set of “California Dreams” . If on the other hand you just want to get safely from point A to point B with the least amount of hassle, blend in. Flesh as innocent as exposed calves is rare and delectable fodder to some of the desperate househusbands on Sri Lankan roads, and if you don’t have a bloke in front of you, it’s assumed that you are advertising its availability. I am personally pretty sure that if I pasted my phone number on my bike, I would not only get at least 100 calls a day and be able to market whatever I wanted- but also cause a sharp spike in traffic mishaps in the greater Colombo area due to people focusing on all the wrong things …occasionally I admit, I do toy with the idea of placing the number of the Dehiwala Zoo, on my rear luggage carrier, just for kicks ;-)…moving on:
I’ve tried lots of stuff (except skirts which I really don’t want to) -colourful blouses and shalwars just end up looking absurd, in my humble opinion, high heels are never practical, covered shoes are much better if you wish to actually recognise your toes at the end of the day, and a dust jacket is a good idea- it actually keeps the dust and diesel fumes out of your cleavage (oh ,is that another reason why the guys go first ?)and camouflages the consistency of your bust- for the same reason, make sure those under supports are nice and firm. None of the lacy, flexible stuff you find at fancy Colombo department stores: to take on the potholes of Colombo your valuable assets need to be strapped into the type of coir reinforced lingerie that Mrs Trunchbull wears to netball practice. (She is, for my dear readers who have missed the fun, the 175 kg, ex mud wrestler now tyrannical school principal in Mathilda who throws children out of school windows by their plaits, a creation of Roald Dhal one of the most wonderful and honest children’s authors this world has known.)
Which reminds me, if you have long hair ,for Pete’s sake tie it up- you don’t need that getting caught in the spokes or passing bullock carts. This again is why shalwars shawls and saris make unsuitable riding gear although we have been conditioned to think that if there is a male creature in front of us anything goes .Think about it? How many chances will you get to reverse stupid mistakes like this?
Finally do not think of hanging your groceries on the handle bars. Riding through Colombo needs 150% of your concentration and you don’t want to be worrying about whether the tomatoes are getting squishy by being slapped about against passing private coaches. Guys regularly get away with doing this because they don’t really care about the tomatoes (no matter how much they assure you that they do)-and there are some guy motorcyclists out there who look as though they would not notice it if one of their kids fell off, you will agree. For any kind of luggage you must install a proper luggage carrier and lock it so that at least that is out of sight and out of mind.

Now: onto the subject of the young male road audiences of Sri Lanka: they will as a rule, hoot, whistle and howl, if you look the slightest bit unsteady, or go slowly enough to be noticed, wearing eye catching feminine clothes. It’s a Sri Lankan thing, as unlike in India, women on two wheelers are not yet socially accepted. This decidedly chimpanzee-like pedestrian behaviour goes on for the first couple of weeks but peters out once they figure that you are not bothered and you are handling it better than they would ever. It also helps a lot if you are about 2 inches taller than the average local teenager and are yourself, large and in charge like me. My policy is to focus on every third guy who makes a noise, turn the bike around slowly , take it close to him, look him in the eye and gently say, “monowahari PRASHNAYAK thiyenawaadha?" with a sweet smile. Chances are he will get a glazed uncomfortable look and start wriggling uneasily. So you continue staring him down with the same sweet smile and make your voice firm and slightly metallic and say “ no, seriously, does my back tyre look flat to you ? is there anything odd you noticed…?”while giving the bike a few noisy revs and if he has nothing to say, smile honestly and move calmly off back the way you came from. If he answers you with anything spunky, park the bike and stand up. This is where those Fie Quando classes* come in handy, as they take away a woman’s natural paralysis when it comes to handling potentially uncomfortable situations. Nine times out of ten, the average street gang respects a woman who stands up for herself and will end up cringing and smiling cravenly…and saying “naa naa mukuth naa” because they never expected you to confront them and are feeling mighty foolish about it.
Don’t forget these are the same gangs who will bend over backwards to help you, if you are in trouble, (it has happened to me and resulted in a world of new contacts: I now have useful friends in low places) so never take the hooting personally enough to get annoyed by it! □
• another story altogether

Motor-biking in Colombo although affordable fun, can be injurious to your health, not to mention, final. The article is merely a nostalgic account of personal experiences and the author does not take responsibility for any damage sustained by readers, female or otherwise, who take up this dubious sport subsequent to reading same. Next week: my first lesson and what can go wrong.


Janus said...


Truly a lady's guide to bikes..

Jack Point said...

Also buy a dust mask, the 3M ones are good (buy a whole pack, then you can throw them away once they get clogged). Traffic fumes are dreadful in Colombo.

Stay awy from buses, bus exhausts are close chest level and the fumes can be really bad.

Wear white if travelling at night, better still get a jacket that is white or light coloured or has reflectors on it.

Traffc fumes do dreadful things for ones skin, so when you get to your destination try to wash your face. I have had instances where the sink has been covered in black grim after a days travel.

Best of all, get a good life insurance policy and save up for a small car.

al juhara said...

hmm I am, trust me I am. At the current rate Im saving I expect to be able to get that little Maruti around 2017.

al juhara said...

its all the drinking smoking and womanising I do. It drains my salary, unfortunately:-(

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading both posts. Hope there will be a third one.

Ashi said...

it's Miss Trunchbull isn't it... lol thanks for bringing Matilda back to memory... and thanks for the fantastic read,I love your site!

al juhara said...

thanks so much Ashi, yes, indeed she wasnt married, which I guess is not surprising all considering.
(and I imagine that under the floorboards in her house are the neatly arranged bones of the one or two guys who ever attempted to woo her...)
do keep visiting!